Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that reports about the details surrounding the poisoning of opposition figure Alexey Navalny are “funny to read,” in an apparent reference to a CNN-Bellingcat investigation into the attack.
“We are already used to the fact that the United States and other Western countries simply announce in the media yet another set of accusations against Russia, be it hackers, or some kind of a sensation about the double or even triple poisoning of Navalny,” Lavrov said during a news conference following a visit to Croatia.
“All this news is funny to read, but it says only one thing – or rather the manner in which this news is presented says only one thing – that our Western partners do not have any ethical standards and lack skill in normal diplomatic work, and [have] unwillingness to comply with the international legal norms when it comes to finding the facts,” Lavrov added.
“And the [West’s] logic here: ‘Look, we have announced… new facts that were discovered by the German special services about the Navalny poisoning, and Moscow has been silent for two days – if it is silent, it means it is guilty.’ The flaw in this approach, in my opinion, is obvious to any sane person,” Lavrov said.
On Monday, CNN and the investigative group Bellingcat published an exclusive investigation uncovering evidence that Russia’s Federal Security Service (the FSB) formed an elite team specializing in nerve agents that trailed Navalny for years.
Navalny fell ill during a four-hour flight on August 20 from Tomsk to Moscow. The plane’s captain diverted to the city of Omsk and requested medical help and it was later found that the Russian opposition leader had been poisoned by Novichok. He nearly died.
Lavrov’s comment marks the first reaction from a Russian official, as authorities have largely refrained from commenting on the findings. The Kremlin canceled their daily press briefings on Tuesday and Wednesday due to “preparations” for President Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference on Thursday.
In the United States, GOP congressman Michael McCaul said Wednesday that the CNN-Bellingcat report “uncovers truly disturbing information about the Putin regime’s culpability in the poisoning of Alexey Navalny.”
McCaul is the most senior Republican member on the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs.
In a short statement to CNN, McCaul urged the current US administration to complete an investigation into poisoning as requested by himself and Democrat Rep Eliot Engel.
McCaul said the administration should “release its findings immediately so the United States can hold those responsible to account for this inexcusable behavior.”
Navalny told CNN that he was certain Putin knew of the elaborate shadowing operation before he was poisoned. “I am totally sure that Putin was aware,” Navalny said on Tuesday, during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“The operation of such skill and for such a long time cannot exist without a ruling from the chief of (the Russian Federal Security Service) FSB, Mr. Bortnikov. And he would never dare it without the direct order of President Putin.”
The European Union has since imposed sanctions on several senior officials including Alexander Bortnikov, saying he was “responsible for providing support to the persons who carried out or were involved in the poisoning” of Navalny.